Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm Thankful for my Modern-Day Functional Dysfunctional Family

Years ago when my oldest daughter was in grade school, her class did a unit on the American Indians and she came home with an assignment of coming up with Indian names for all of her family members.  This became fun for all of us.  These were our Indian names: Chief Run-Around, Mama Oh-so-Tired, Hannah Mess-Maker and Baby Cry a Lot.  Our family has since grown up, but we are still Chief Run-Around, Mama Oh-so-Tired, Hannah Mess-Maker and as our baby quit crying, she is now Baby Needs-A-Lot.  We are a modern day functional dysfunctional family and proudly still intact!

Chief Run-Around commutes far everyday to go to work (sometimes to fabric factories in China).  He is above average intelligence and works hard for a living.  His name comes from his chief role of running errands on his way home, providing for all our needs.  He also repairs broken things, from cars to computers, and goes the extra mile to lend a hand and provide safety for his two daughters, as well as hauling wares for his wife’s craft shows, as well as carrying loads upstairs and downstairs.

Chief Run-Around is able to quell crises, and offer practical advice and assurance, though this doesn't always soothe Mama Oh-so-Tired.  He is thoughtful and unselfish, though too busy to deal with emotional drama and sometimes “not in touch” as he is stretched too thin, except around his middle.  He avoids conflict and is pretty low maintenance.  He eats anything provided there is plenty of ketchup, cheese, hot sauce or cranberry sauce to generously garnish it, and loves charred food.  

Car talk is his mode of communication, as he is on the run most of the time.  Pillow talk is rare as his head isn't there long enough.  He is a rescuer to his wife, children and many a friend.

Mama Oh-so-Tired has creatively adapted to chronic illness (You didn't think she would be willing to show you a picture of her in her haggard state did you?!  This was the last picture of her taken in a well-rested state!).  Her fatigue is no longer thought to be  caused by the normal or not-so-normal stress of being a mother and working full time, though she gave up the latter (and the former?).

She putts between needed naps, organizes and plans, breaking jobs into small steps to accomplish many things.  She is an introspective, and out-of-the-box-thinker, with little common sense often making the simple complex.  She journals and writes constantly whether or not she has anything useful to say and is the confronter of issues and is overly sensitive to self and sometimes others.  She is a nurse by trade, a counselor, mender and meddler (don’t they go together?) and for many a year had a phone attached to her head when she wasn't working or sleeping.  Now she has a computer key board attached to her fingers when not attached to a needle and thread.

She is also a special educator consultant, another official trade, who still evaluates and creates Individual Educational Plans (IEP's) with long and short term goals and objectives, now applied to running a family, the house and a craft business, while treating long term health issues.  She is a shadow leader of the pack who as replaced her megaphone with a long-reach, battery-operated cattle prod, though knows that positive rewards better modify behavior of not only the dog, but children and husband while naps reward her and the cat for their diligent efforts.

She is no Energizer Bunny and she wears a sign that reads, “Caution: Frequent Sudden Stops” for prayer time and connecting to her much needed power source—Bible reads and personal one-to-one chats with God, who she claims lives under her bed or her sewing chair or in her purse, as He belongs to her and is on her side!

While weak in the knees, she is strong-willed and strong-stomached, though recently has developed a bit of a “wilting violet side” that presents itself with an instant “sit down” to gain mental clarity.  She never was good at multi-tasking without pots boiling over or charring cookies in the oven.  Her doctor recently told her it’s too late to develop multi-tasking and to stick to the simple one-thing-at-a-time approach.  She keeps everything where it’s supposed to be, though she’s having more issues with remembering where it’s supposed to be.  She is much loved and when not, is tolerated.  She gives advice freely, though it is rarely heeded.

Hannah Mess-Maker (on the right) is the first fruit of the union of Chief Run-Around and Mama Oh-so-Tired.   She doesn't fall far from their tree, carrying a trunk load of their traits though the Chief and Mama rarely recognize their origins, as they don't appear to be anything like those of her parents.  Creativity and brilliance abounds but like her mother its practical application is sometimes lacking, creating messes everywhere that pile up until her zones resemble “a hoarder’s paradise” with layers upon layers of creativity buried under the need to function at top speed at too many jobs.  Multi-tasking is her specialty, leaving a chronic trail behind her.  Her mother’s behavior-mod-program never took root as Hannah Mess-Maker, smarter than her mother, created her own goals and objectives.  First on her list was to be her own person and avoid the bribes and secure her role at taking over and running the house.  The next was to get her sister, Baby Cry-a-Lot to shut up as well as silence Mama’s megaphone.

Despite Mama Oh-so-Tired’s endless attempts to confront the issues, Hannah Mess-Maker had a good life, but aimed to make it better by letting Mama’s organizational abilities keep her toys and books in order, as she had better things to do, like disrupting an otherwise "perfect and functional home"!  Like all first-borns, she made her parents go a little insane and thus move into their dysfunctional state. Yes, Hannah Mess-Maker’s parents didn't know what hit them and Chief Run-Around ran faster and Mama Oh-so-Tired got more tired, while their well-educated and accomplished daughter sought to remake the world.

Now Hannah Mess-Maker smiles as she looks back on her life, knowing that she accomplished her goals and more, she is uniquely Hannah, a responsible and creative adult, though her parents, and schools may never be the same.  Hannah Mess-Maker still makes messes in her parent’s garden, kitchen and house.  She is a gifted graphic artist and like her father works very hard, and is so busy that she continues to make Mama Oh-so-Tired more tired than ever!

Baby Cry-a-Lot is grown up now and so has become Baby Need-a-Lot.  She is still the baby of our family, but now fiercely independent and social.  She is a sensitive social worker-counselor-sort-of-person, living life to the edge and experiencing first-hand the trials that beset her generation.  She operates best under stress which seems to be ever present as she has her own time clock versus following the standard time of the rest of the world and continues to march to her own beat quite literally.  She observes what works and doesn't work in other’s lives, thinks hard and carefully chooses her own and different path.  She doesn't cry much anymore, and doesn't want to be hushed but has a loud, clear voice of her own!

 Living on the edge, she has had her share of accidents and is sensitive and loving to all and is close to the action—sometimes too much so for the comfort of Chief Run-Around, and he runs and runs, trying to scout out potential dangers and keep her safe.  No longer under the control of her bossy sister, she is out living life and is about to branch out from the Chief’s radar.  Likely this is needed for her own growth.

Mama Oh-so-Tired hasn't kept up so well with this baby and is frequently relieved to know that Baby has safely survived yet another close call, knowing that if she knew all that this child was about, her life would be shortened by years not minutes!! She is growing up despite the odds that she creates.

Competing with her sister’s success, she has created her own legacies and achievements of equal merit as her older sister’s.  Like so many of this generation, her path is not a straight line, but taking several abrupt angles as she puts aside some of her greater talents to simply earn a living and trying out new applications of her assets.  Graduating with honors as a highly talented studio artist whose work is rich in detail, now Baby Need-a-Lot is doing practical things with that same attention to detail.  Whether caring for children, assisting her sister in her graphic art work or doing menial sorts of jobs, she does her work with care and integrity.  She still marches to a different drummer and it is not the reward of money, but rather personal pride that makes her tick.

Baby Needs-a-Lot has taken time for personal relationships and has a serious beau and is a friend to many.  She is kind, and sensitive and deep, all attributes created by her own personal trials.  Her health issues seriously threatened and challenged her to have a normal life and she continues to push her limits.  She is complex and drawn to all that will help her grow personally.  We sometimes scratch our heads as her paths lead her in ways we wish she would avoid, but we will learn what she is already certain of: she is strong enough to be more than our Baby Need-a-Lot!

Of course, no dysfunctional family would be complete without their pets, and as selected by the peculiar tastes of unique individuals means that they in turn have their quirks as well!  Cassie, our coon-hound mix, like her master, Hannah Mess-Maker has a will of iron and the strength of body enough to challenge us all.  She is equally as loving and caring as her master and is so lovingly devoted to Chief Run-Around as to try to be one with him. The Chief’s need to be adored has been overly-saturated by this warm overbearing beast and he now appreciates being left alone in quiet and peace, though that is a rare moment indeed!

Zeldie, our beautiful tiger cat is truly befitting of the name given to her by the shelter from which she came.  She is our Princess Warrior, demanding of all the privileges befitting her self-appointed aristocracy, which if neglected brings out the warrior in her.  She is Mama-Oh-so-Tired’s mostly companion, affectionate when she wants to be and loyal to whoever caters to the princess in her.  She makes Mama Oh-so-Tired an honorary Lady-in-Waiting.

So there you have it, an intact, albeit, modern-day functional dysfunctional family, pieced together with many a jagged edge but notched to fit with the others.  Functional dysfunction, we have found, is created by irregular and abnormal people that fit together to counterbalance what the other doesn't have.  It mostly works, though we are still working at making it work better.  We have adapted to the conditions of our lives as best we can and with God’s help we will “continue to play the hand we are dealt”.  Life can be challenging, and is seldom ideal, but I am thankful for my functional dysfunctional family.....most of the time!

We are hopeful that, like us, you have a loving family or friends to enjoy this Thanksgiving with!  Have a good turkey day!!


  1. I'm choking on my water! Thank God I peed before I read this. I do so love your last picture as a well rested woman. It is honestly lovely. Your wit and sarcasm and obvious love for your little family really hits home for me. You are such a great writer and there's nothing wrong with your mind, my friend. It's obvious where your girls get their super intelligence from. Wow! This was definately worth the wait. You made my night. :)

  2. Thanks Cindy--I was concerned that there was so little reverence in my portrait of my family...but then it seemed to fit us--like what is there to be reverent about?? I look forward to seeing you soon and no choking!! jane

  3. Jane,your family portrait is actually very touching beneath the tickles of the funny bones. If I tried to blog about my family the irreverence would turn to debauchery and depravity.Cyberspace would implode and computers would crash around the world. :(

  4. I am certain that you exaggerate!Still I would be happy to let you know...and I would be the first to read such a blog!! :) jane

  5. Exaggerating is what I do! Along with procrastinating and catastrophising!

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I love the picture of your dog on your (?) shoe. Your writing made me smile and gave me hope for my own "dysfunctional" family. I also love your felted pincusions.
    Take care

  7. Thank you Ida! The dog is curled up on my husband's shoe. I am grateful that Cassie has taken to him more than to me. She can clearly be a "burden"! I do have to wonder if there are any real functional families out there? I think we are called to love those that we are "blessed" with....sometimes a very big challenge to be sure! Thanks again, Jane

  8. Thank you Ida! The dog is curled up on my husband's shoe. I am grateful that Cassie has taken to him more than to me. She can clearly be a "burden"! I do have to wonder if there are any real functional families out there? I think we are called to love those that we are "blessed" with....sometimes a very big challenge to be sure! Thanks again, Jane